Showing posts from November, 2013


Well, I'm back in Utah for the third time in eight weeks. I think my parents are starting to suspect that I've moved back in, but the goal of this trip was to see a portion of my extended family and spend a legitimate holiday with everyone in my immediate family. Since Beat and I haven fallen into a tradition of spending Christmas in Alaska, Thanksgiving has taken on a more significant meaning as a traditional family gathering. Also for this trip, I packed out a large suitcase of Alaska-specific gear with hopes that an Arctic cold front would blow in and offer ample testing opportunities. No such luck, as the weather has been clear, ten to fifteen degrees above normal, and absolutely gorgeous. Sigh. So disappointing.

Having just escaped mob madness at the SLC airport on Wednesday afternoon, with a little over two hours of daylight to spare, my dad and I took a leisurely walk up Bells Canyon. When I was a child in the Salt Lake Valley, I believed November was the ugliest month…

Week 2, Nov. 18 to 24

Given our vague but long-term plans for the Snoots in winter touring, I don't intend to put many pavement and dirt miles on this bike, thereby wearing down expensive tires and other parts unnecessarily. But the temptation to go out and play with this fun new toy is hard to resist, even though I feel a little silly waiting at stop lights while straddling an expedition fat bike. Plus, there is the issue of being a somewhat stranger-shy introvert, riding a bike that couldn't be more conspicuous. As I was pedaling up Foothill Boulevard, at least three road cyclists on the other side of the wide street called out to me — "fat bikes rule!," "what is that?" and another greeting I didn't catch. Near the top of Black Mountain, while spinning the granny up a 15-percent-grade on loose gravel, a hiker walking down the hill wanted to ask me a dozen questions. "It's for snow," I gasped. "To ride in Alaska." And finally, "sorry, can't…

A relaxing day at the beach

I'm not sure I could ever get excited about training for a calculated, reasonable fitness goal — not when there are outlandish adventures to be had. And, like many milestones in life, it's not even so much about the outcome of the outlandish adventure as it is about the journey there. The preparations. The training. How do you train for an outlandish adventure? With smaller adventures, wherever they can be found and woven into the fabric of daily life. Fitness for the sake of fitness? Sure, that's great. But fitness for the sake of adventure? There's the hook for something meaningful.

Now that it's winter training season, I'm hoping to put in weekly long, leisurely paced runs and/or hikes. The very best part of this goal is asking myself, "Okay, where do I want to run this week?" For more than a year now, I've followed Leor Pantilat's fantastic adventure running blog, and at this point I must have twenty of his route ideas saved in my "L…

A moving distraction

My attention span, ugh. I think I join most of the modern world in the sentiment that social media wreaks havoc on one's ability to concentrate. And Words With Friends! What faulty wiring in my brain makes it crave a regular hit of that stupid game more than it craves chocolate or caffeine? I have been chipping away at book chapters; supposedly this is work I enjoy. And yet, writing often feels more like a test of endurance than anything else in my life. I chip and scratch and delete, and without even deciding to, find my way over to the New York Times homepage and suddenly a half hour is gone. You know how it goes. I do have my Internet-free "concentrate dammit" zones, but it's becoming a little too cold to sit outside by the pool.

On the days I do contract work, I'm more than happy to sit inside clickity clacking all day. Editing projects are wonderful; my objective is well-defined and immediate. Writing is more vague. It's a tough thing to force. And the …

Week 1, Nov. 11 to Nov. 17

Tracking my training is something I want to try this winter. Even though I don't have a plan or a clear set of directives, it will be nice to have a comprehensive record of my activities. My hope is to use methods that have worked for me in the past regarding multi-day efforts, and try to put in a higher volume of sustained, low- to moderate-intensity workouts for the next three months. Also, there will likely be a few Strava-PR-chasing efforts that qualify as high intensity to mix things up. Beat will probably disagree with the higher volume idea, but Beat can thrive on far less training than I can. I tend to fall apart mentally without a solid amount of time investment and preparation behind me (cough, cough, PTL.)

Although Strava is convenient, I thought it would be even better to commit to one of those weekly training roundups on the blog, to more thoroughly record exactly what I did, how I felt, and any nagging pains or other issues that are causing concern. These types of p…

Tis the season

There are 101 more days until the Iditarod Trail Invitational, which means winter training has officially begun. As of today, my plan is still to attempt the 350-mile distance on foot. But with that beautiful Snoots snow bike parked in my living room, I reserve the right to waffle on that decision for the next 100 days. I mean, just looking at this bike, with its shiny titanium, muscular fork, and shredder tires that make the Fatback look like a toy ... well ... it's fair to say temptation will probably taunt me daily. But for many reasons that I have mulled over since 2011, the goal is finishing on foot. That's the dream. And if I ever want to take the Snoots to Nome, there's arguably no better preparation than walking to McGrath. As Mike Curiak told me, "You already know how to ride a bike." Pushing a bike — and doing so with purpose and happy legs and no blisters — is the key to success. Just ask any biker who entered the 2012 race.

So how does one train for …

Finding our community

The concept of community is becoming increasingly more paradoxical in the modern era. Internet, smart phones, and other sources of instant information sharing have contributed to a global community; we can feel just as connected to someone in Bangladesh as we can to the family next door. In other ways, we're more isolated than ever, distrusting our neighbors and remaining clueless about our local issues and leaders. Family and friends scatter all over the world, we change locations multiple times, and it's becoming increasingly more difficult as individuals to define where our "community" resides.

Earlier this year, a friend introduced me to Ann Trason, who is something of a legend in the sport of ultrarunning. She absolutely dominated the sport for more than 15 years, winning the Western States 100 fourteen times and setting a course record that stood for 18 years. Through the '90s, she held world records at the 50-mile, 100-K, 12-hour, and 100-mile distances.…

The Loneliest Highway

I love road trips. In a perfect world, I would always have the time, means, and energy to just ride a bicycle everywhere, even destinations hundreds of miles away. But there's also something special about getting behind the wheel of a vehicle and piloting it across states, absorbing large swaths of scenery and chunks of local culture along the way. 
I've driven all over the North American West during the past ten years, and one of my favorite crossings is Northern Nevada. This segment of Interstate 80 is often described as the most monotonous, least engaging highway in the United States, with nothing but wide-open desert plains and distant barren mountains as far as the eye can see. I disagree with this assessment wholly, but then again these are my kind of landscapes — sweeping and mysterious, with adventurous intrigue lingering on the distant horizons. Still, the twelve-plus hours it takes to drive 800 miles between Los Altos and Salt Lake City is a lot of time to spend in …